TMS MLB Preview 2009: Chicago Cubs

CHICAGO CUBS

SO LONG: C Henry Blanco, SS Ronny Cedeno, 2B Mark DeRosa, OF Jim Edmonds, P Rich Hill, P Bob Howry, P Jon Lieber, P Jason Marquis, OF Felix Pie, OF Daryle Ward, P Kerry Wood

WELCOME: C Paul Bako, OF Milton Bradley, OF Joey Gathright, P Aaron Heilman, 2B Aaron Miles, 2B Luis Rivas, P Luis Vizcaino

PROJECTED LINEUP
1. Alfonso Soriano LF
2. Ryan Theriot SS
3. Derrek Lee 1B
4. Aramis Ramirez 3B
5. Milton Bradley RF
6. Geovany Soto C
7. Kosuke Fukudome CF
8. Mike Fontenot 2B

Starting Rotation: Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster,
Rich Harden, Ted Lilly, Sean Marshall
Setup: Kevin Gregg, Jeff Samardzija
Closer: Carlos Marmol

Many who preview the 2009 Chicago Cubs will begin by reiterating their decrepit showing at the end of the previous season. This, however, is unoriginal, as reporters and bloggers have been regurgitating these sentiments for exactly one hundred years. Granted, last year was a model in futility on the postseason stage, but still, Cub fans are immune to this. It is, after all, "next year". We will not dwell on the past today; we will look forward to a new dawn and fresh ivy on the walls.

Though the contractual cornerstones of the roster have remained in place, a few dearly beloved players where shuttled off or otherwise asked to quietly go into that good night. Prominent among these were Mark DeRosa ("I want to get to second base with Aaron Miles" just doesn't have a good ring to it), and of course Kerry Wood. Wood was released into the wild by Jim Hendry, much in the way one would nurse an abandoned bald eagle to health. He will again soar with the Indians, or so we hope in our heart of hearts. DeRosa was traded to that same Cleveland club over the winter, in the magical, mystical cocktease which led Cub fans to believe it was a necessary step in the conquest of Jake Peavy. The latter never occured, and the ultimate value of that trade charts solidly in the "to be determined..." category.

The aforementioned departures, the Milton Bradley signing, and the intrusion of the World Baseball Classic have left the Cubs camp with a few more internal decisions which need to be sorted out. Though a lot of fat was cut from last year's team (Marquis, Pie, Howry in particular), Hendry's additions have only served to equally muddle up the roster. Heilman is a great addition, and between him and Marshall, our fifth starter spot and long relief are in decent hands. But who starts at second base (Miles or Fontenot)? Who gets the playing time in center field (Fukudome's contract or Johnson's hustle)? What offensive player gets relegated to Des Moines at the break of camp (Hoffpauir)? Lou needs a pinch-runner in Gathright, and Johnson or Fukudome get a bench role. Does Taguchi make the squad? Koyie Hill or Paul Bako? With the emergence of Hoffpauir, do the Cubs look to trade Lee? Is Marmol a sure thing to close over Gregg? It will be interesting to see how things shake out in Lou's mind, but at least he can count on Bradley losing time due to injury at some point.

Mr. Sexy Time: This goes to Carlos Marmol. Though he's technically still in a competition for the closing job, and it doesn't help that he's away with the Dominican Republic's WBC team, by the last day of spring he will be adorned with the 9th inning duties. He will throw wicked stuff. He will blow no less than three games. He might even be a little dicey in the playoffs. But this is the guy Lou will put out there, always knowing though that he has a capable alternative in Kevin Gregg.

The AC Delco Spark Plug Award: Lou wanted more left-handed hitting. One piece to the puzzle was already on his roster. Mike Fontenot, soon to be adopted son of TMS, should see the majority of starts at second base over Aaron Miles. Miles is a switch hitter though, so in all likelihood this will be a platoon. I'm not the biggest fan of the platoon, and the Cubs look to already have one in the works in center field. That's Lou's call and Cub fans will have to abide by the outcome. At least Fontenot is holding up his end of the competition, batting .367 in the spring as of yesterday. Honorable mention to Reed Johnson, who just seems to make shit happen when he plays.

The Rosetta Stone Award: The language of baseball is not necessarily universal. If it were, Kosuke Fukudome likely would not have hit a mental and physical brick wall last summer. Now that we're a year into his term with the Cubs, we can only hope that he's ironed out any lingering communication issues. It might help to have a veteran like So Taguchi around, but as was already mentioned, there may not be room on the roster for both. It would also probably help if Fukudome was in the Cubs camp right now, instead of at the WBC. I suppose the silver lining is that when he makes it to Arizona in a couple weeks, he'll be in tip-top game condition. Or so we hope. I'm not sure how long Cub fans will accept those windmill swings.

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